In the year 2000, the United States (and much of the rest of the world, it seems) is under the dictatorial rule of Mr. President, and the masses are kept passive with the Transcontinental road race, where the competitors must not only race from the remains of New York to the remains of LA in record time, but kill as many pedestrians as possible. Chief rivals are fan favourite Frankenstein (David Carradine) and the villainous Machine Gun Joe Viterbo (Sylvester Stallone).
You know yo…’re in for no-nonsense fun when the main event is underway barely ten minutes into the film. Death Race 2000 delivers from the get go, and never stops with a steady diet of car chases, explosions, violence and sex. It is also very funny and its satire, oddly or sadly enough, seems to have become very topical again. It is one of those wonderful examples of perfect talent alchemy. Roger Corman produced (and hence the reliable exploitation elements and economy), Paul Bartel directed (hence some of its bizarre tone) and Charles B. Griffith, who wrote many of Corman’s best and wittiest films, is the co-scripter. Pure violent gold.
This disc’s claim to special edition status lies in the extras, not, as we shall see, in the transfer itself. The sound is 2.0 mono, which is okay, but a stereo remix would have definitely added to the experience of this particular film. By and large the mono is fine, but there is some distortion of the dialogue going on. This problem is infrequent, but it can be quite noticeable when it crops up.
The picture is even more problematic. First, the good points. It’s widescreen (1.78:1 anamorphic, which is nice, but I find myself a little bit suspicious as to whether this was reallly the original theatrical format), it’s sharp, and the colours are terrific. Less good is the print quality. The speckling isn’t severe, but it is pretty constant. Worse is the grain. Though it isn’t an issue most of the time, when the shots get grainy, they are REALLY grainy, and pretty filthy to boot. No restoration process here.
Co-star Mary Woronov (she plays Calamity Jane) and Roger Corman provide the engaging commentary, loaded with memories and neat details (Corman is such an excellent speaker). The retrospective featurette is pretty fascinating too, though short (10 minutes). The only other extra is the original theatrical trailer. The menu’s main screen is animated and scored, and the secondary screens are scored.
Are there really enough extras here to warrant calling this a special edition? Hardly. But the ones that are here are fun, and the movie is a classic exploitation blast.
Special Features List
- Audio Commentary
- Making-of Featurette
- Theatrical Trailer